COMMENT: Treasure has been taken for granted

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HANDS up who knew about the fascinating place which Edinburgh’s old Central Fire Station boasts in British history.

The fact that the Capital was home to the world’s first municipal fire brigade is reasonably well known, although probably not as widely celebrated as it deserves to be, despite the fine statue of its founder James Braidwood on the Royal Mile.

Few, however, are likely to know that the grand old fire station in Lauriston Place is the last surviving Victorian station in the UK.

Only in a city blessed with such a rich and glorious past as Edinburgh could such a treasure be taken for granted in the way that it has been.

The idea of preserving the building and turning it into a top museum celebrating the unique role that the Capital has played in firefighting history is an exciting one. There are many hurdles, of course, standing in the way of making that vision a reality.

Preserving and transforming the building would be a very expensive business, especially creating an attraction of a high enough quality to attract the necessary visitors. And the fire service has its own financial pressures like every other public institution and has a duty to put its resources into protecting its life-saving services. But could enough money be found from other sources such as the National Lottery?

We cannot take for granted that a fire museum would be a significant enough visitor draw to justify the expense, especially with so much else on offer. But this part of our history is fascinating and globally significant, and some simple research would soon answer the question of how much visitor interest it might generate.

Rather than blindly stumbling into losing this asset, it is surely worth seriously exploring the potential of this idea. Perhaps the city’s heritage groups could take the lead. If we don’t do it now, it may soon be too late.